by Rita Leydon ©2001
My home is a little tourist town in Pennsylvania called Lahaska. A few years ago when Peter Hedlund first visited us here, we three sat on a bench in the village, coffee cups in hand, enjoying the moment. A woman whom I knew only as the daughter of Fru Sköld, who had had the Swedish shop in the village before she retired, happened to walk by and we exchanged greetings. I had known her mother casually for maybe twenty five years. In exchanging pleasantries we introduced her to Peter, the Swedish connection and all that, explaining who he was and about the nyckelharpa.
"Oh," she smiled (her name is Helene), "I know the nyckelharpa. When I was a young girl we lived next door to a man named Gösta Sandström and he played a little nyckelharpa. He gave me fiddle lessons for a while. Sometimes his friend, Eric Sahlström came over and they played together. That was so nice."
Helene hadn’t noticed that by then our jaws were in our laps. Peter perked right up and offered that he knew Gösta well and had played with him a lot over the years. They got downright chatty, Peter and Helene, talking about Gösta’s daughters who had been Helene’s playmates, and the house next door, and the lady across the street. Chris and I could only marvel. We had no idea that Fru Sköld had a nyckelharpa connection back home in Uppland. The subject never came up. After the discovery of this common thread, we always had a little more to talk about with Helene and Fru Sköld. They’d ask me to remember them to Peter. And how is the nyckelharpa playing going? And have you been back to Sweden again? And the like.
Gösta Sandström is a legendary nyckelharpa player just like Eric Sahlström. I’d seen scratchy old videos of the two of them playing together on the stage at Österbybruk a long time ago. The sun shining and their eyes squinting. But I hadn’t actually met Gösta—that is until last summer. Last summer at Ekebyholm, I met Gösta.
I’ve been to the Ekebyholm nyckelharpa course in Rimbo, Sweden, several times now and feel like part of the family at this point. There are always wonderful new friends to meet and old ones to catch up with, and everyone makes such a lovely racket all week long. All those strings and keys and bows and new tunes!
One evening, Gösta Sandström came as a special guest, escorted by his daughter, Marianne. He was fussed over and loved by everyone. He’s very old now. I waited patiently to introduce myself and deliver greetings from his friends in Lahaska. He knew instantly who I was talking about and had tears in his eyes as he spoke and remembered how close the whole Sköld family was to his own. The Skölds who moved to America so long ago. He called for Marianne to come over and join in the remembrance. We found someone (Sheila Morris) to take a photograph so I could present it to Fru Sköld from him. It was very special moment.
Fru Sköld is also very old now. I’ve given her the picture of Gösta, me and Marianne at Ekebyholm last summer. Her eyes welled up with emotion and sentiment as she thanked me over and over and remembered some more. I think I became a bridge between friends.
published in Nyckel Notes, Number 23, March 2002